John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka are awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. For their work regarding stem cell research. As motivated by the Nobel Prize Committee. The Nobel Prize rewards two scientists who discovered that mature, specialized cells can be reprogrammed to immature cells, which in turn can develop into all the tissues. This has revolutionized our view of the cell and organism development.
John B. Gurdon discovered in 1962 that cell specialization is not irreversible. In a classic experiment, he replaced the nucleus of a frog egg cell with the nucleus from an adult cell taken from intestinal tadpoles. The modified egg could still develop into a tadpole. The mature cell nucleus DNA was thus preserved all the information necessary to form all kinds of cells in the frog.
Over 40 years later, in 2006, Shinya Yamanaka discovered how an intact, specialized cell from a mouse could be returned to being an immature stem cell. By inserting a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, ie immature cells that can develop into any kind of cell in the body.
The two scientists’ groundbreaking discoveries have completely changed our view of cell development and specialization of the organism. We now understand that the mature cell does not need to be forever chained in their specialized state. Textbooks have been rewritten, and new research field has been opened. By today we also can reprogram human cells, we have new opportunities to study disease and develop methods for diagnosis and treatment.”
The medicine award was the first Nobel Prize to be announced this year. The physics award will be announced Tuesday, followed by chemistry on Wednesday, the literature on Thursday and the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.